Australia to procure 40 Black Hawk helicopters, to retire MRH-90 Taipan early


A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Photo c/o EPA.

The Australian Government confirmed on 18 January 2023 that it will be procuring 40 new Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk multi-role helicopters from the United States, with an estimated cost amounting to A$2.8 billion (US$1.95 billion).

The acquisition will be made as part of the Project LAND 4507-1 of the Australian Army, and would be done through US Foreign Military Sales (US FMS) program

The deliveries of the Black Hawk helicopters are expected to start later this year, and would be deployed from Oakey in Queensland, and from Holsworthy in New South Wales.

The new helicopters will replace the troubled MRH-90 Taipan helicopter fleet operated by the Australian Army, which have been struggling with maintenance and spare parts supply issues for several years.

Australian Army Head of Land Capability Major General Jeremy King said that the UH-60M Black Hawk will meet Australia’s strategic needs, and is considered a more reliable and proven system supported by a robust supply chain.

Australian companies will be participating in providing support and services for the new helicopter fleet, as part of a wider global supply chain.

The helicopters will be used for different combat and peacetime operations including protection of Australia’s sovereignty, deployment and support of troops and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).

The Australian Army currently has 41 MRH-90 Taipan helicopters operating from 2 bases, but the maintenance issues forced the service to hire civilian helicopters in 2021, costing A$37 million, to meet operational requirements due to the Taipan’s low availability rate.

As early as 2021, the Australian Department of Defence confirmed that they intend to retire the MHR90 Taipan helicopters a decade earlier than scheduled. It has now confirmed that the Australian Army will cease operating the Taipans by December 2024, or 13 years earlier than planned.

The French Government has been lobbying for Australia to continue operating the MRH-90 Taipan helicopters, with Airbus announcing its full commitment to fully support the helicopters. The announcement to ditch the Taipan is expected to disappoint France, but not as much as the cancellation of the Attack-class submarine program.

[1] ABC News

[2] Australian Defence Magazine

[3] The Guardian

Australia to procure 40 Black Hawk helicopters, to retire MRH-90 Taipan early Australia to procure 40 Black Hawk helicopters, to retire MRH-90 Taipan early Reviewed by Asia Pacific Defense Journal on January 19, 2023 Rating: 5

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